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Energy Firms Clamor for Clusters

Energy companies represent the smallest of the storage networking vertical markets, but the niche is rich enough to keep at least one set of storage firms busy full time.

"Upstream oil and gas [which includes geological exploration and well drilling] is among our top three vertical markets," says Brett Goodwin, VP of marketing at Isilon Systems. The companies that survey and drill new wells for the big oil companies are second only to media and entertainment firms in needing the kind of clustered NAS system that is stock-in-trade for Isilon and its competitors, including the likes of OnStor and Panasas.

One customer tells why. "We store very large, very dense images... We want to stream data in parallel onto racks of Linux clusters... [and] we are driven by cost," says Richard Verm, VP of research and technology at Geophysical Development Corp. (GDC). His firm offers seismic data processing and exploration services to oil and gas companies.

Like other energy firms, GDC collects huge digitized map files, typically consuming 1 or 2 Tbytes per file. Its preference for Linux clustering is also typical of scientific firms working in this space -- as is the need to cut costs.

"Customers are getting cheaper about spending," Verm says. "It's tied to demand. There's enough work for suppliers now, and customers read the papers, too. When they read that the cost of computers is going down, there's a pushback... We have to essentially lower our costs and improve performance at the same time."

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